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Bubble News: Championship Saturday, Part Three
Who is the most worried right now in the moments before the Pac-10 and Big-12 championship games start and a pair of bid thieves hit the court?
Is it mid-major teams Creighton and St. Mary's? The Bluejays and Gaels are 11 and 12 seeds in the Bracket Matrix. A total of 30 brackets updated before today's action began. Creighton logged a seed in 20 of those brackets; St. Mary placed in 16.
Is it Big 10 rivals Penn State and Minnesota? Both are dogged because nobody seems to like the league. The Gophers played terribly down the stretch. That nuetral site win over Lousiville over the Christmas holidays kicks into gear for sure. Only two of 30 dropped the Gophers in the most recent straw poll. Penn State lost at lowly Iowa and were non competitive against Purdue in their final two legit March auditions. Will a poor OOC resume come back to haunt them? Like Creighton, 20 of the updated brackets give Penn State an invitation.
Is it Dayton? The Flyers might have seen their bid go right into the hands of another Atlantic 10 team last night.
Is it Maryland? The Terps received more votes than most of the above teams in this morning's update with 22 out of 30 bids. Does anyone of that support wither in the wake of another loss to Duke.
What we do know id two teams sitting in the field right now could be tossed aside if the underdogs when in L.A. and Oklahoma City tonight.
Meanwhile, we're within the 24-hour window of the formal selection and we can put to bed any notion of Michigan getting snubbed. The Wolverines received near unanimous support in this morning's vote with 29 of the 30 updates seeding Michigan. Twenty-six of those had UM either seeded 9th or 10th, showing a large line in between Michigan and the final cutline. Tomorrow will be a fun and gratifying Selection Show for long suffering Michigan Basketball fans.
And, they can enjoy the hoops tonight without worry.
Big 12 Championship: Baylor vs. Missouri. Line, Missou -6
Somebody is going to win their first ever Big 12 Tournament Title today. And, if its Baylor, somebody will also lose their NCAA at-large bid. Missouri endured a survival of the fittest test and a hostile partisan crowd to ease by Oklahoma State last night. Baylor snapped a decade-long plus losing streak to rival Texas. The win required cooler heads to step in and settle down the masses in Austin dealing with defeat. Its also causing some bubble quesiness.
The fact is, however, Baylor should already be in the field.......had they lived up to preseason expectations.
This team was ranked in the polls and returned intact from last year's record breaking team that qualified for the tournament. They impressed in November and December. In the Anaheim Classic over Thanksgiving weekend, they lost to Wake Forest in the finals after picking apart Providence and Arizona State earlier in the field. Upon their return, they visited the Paloose and avenged a loss from last year by beating the Cougars in a game heralded to have March impact.
When January started this team seemed a lock to earn back to back bids. Then, wheels started to fly off. They lost a heartbreaker to South Carolina, got thumped in College Station, hit rock bottom on a six-game losing streak with five double digit defeats. and wheezed to four losses in the final six games to close the regular season.
But, three wins in Okalahoma City the last three nights have put them 40 minutes away from their first ever consecutive NCAA bids. This should be a track meet all night. The O/U on shot clock violations is 0.5. Will Baylor have the legs?
Pac 10 Championship: USC vs. Arizona State. Line, ASU -2
In the USC Trojans, we have a similar to story to Baylor. The Trojans, based on preseason expectations bouyed by a core of talented returnees bolstered by the nation's top recruiting class, should already be in the field. But, they're not. Last night, however, they showed the type of passion against rival UCLA that had it been a more permanent fixture of their identity this season, they wouldnt be in this precarious position.
Meanwhile, courtside observers watching Arizona State highlighted another dominant effort from James Hardin, a long hopes for Ty Abbot Renaissance and Ambler Alert for Rihards Kusiks and a thankful prayer that the Sun Devils first half lead was large enough to absorb a dominant second half from the Huskies.
Atlantic 10 Championship: Temple vs Duke. Line, Temple -4.5
This hit is a done deal with the Temple/Duquence A10 Final already topping off a successful execution of an at large bid. Neither team makes the Big Dance without the automatic but. Both teams took out this sectional's top seeds last night. Does one of these teams getting a bid just swipe the bid out from underneath league rival Dayton? If so, that's a break even result for the rest of the bubble.
Duquense is a lot like Florida State in that they're led head and shoulders by a senior scorer, whose dragging a talented, but inexperienced group of underclassmen to a drought breaking NCAA appearance. The man to watch is senior Aaron Jackson. He leds the team in scoring, shoots close to 55%, leads the team in assists and second in rebounding. He can be a big time matchup chip since he can point and wing.
For Duquense, it would be their first NCAA bid in over three decades. Norm Nixon paced the Dukes last time we saw them in the NCAAs. And, if they win, the city of Pittsburgh will have remarkable placed three teams in the final field with Pittsburgh and Robert Morris, auto qualifiers from the NEC already there. They need to keep rolling threes in Atlantic City tonight to win and they've already hit 31 of those during the weekend.
For the Owls, there startegy is to let Dionte Christmas dominate. Even during a subpar game, he was called on the step up and hit the big shots late. He did. And, Temple advanced. They're a game away from turning an uneven season into another NCAA bid. Another helping of their quality effort they got from an assortment of role players can get them that next step.
Mountain West Championship: SDSU vs Utah. Line, Pick 'EM
Thanks to their run into this final, the Aztecs are finding themselves in a lot of final 4 in groupings. Can they stay in with a loss tonight, especially a convincing beat down at the hands of the regular season champion Utes?
Let's consider the resume. They're 23-8, 11-5 in league play, good enough for fourth place one behind a three-way logjam at the top. They lost all three of their key OOC games, dropping contests to Arizona, Arizona State and St. Mary's. Otherise their OOC slate consisted off patsies like Western Carolina, Hampton and Northern Colorado. They went on the road in those games which helps inflate that #31 RPI ranking. They have 7 RPI tip 100-wins, but a breakdown of that record shows a 2-5 mark versus the top 50 and 5-3 mark against the 2nd 50. Their SOS is an eye opening 38th, but a listing of their top seven wins reads Utah, at UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, UNLV, at UNLV and BYU.
That begs two questions. Can a team in a tweener league between the majors and the mid majors get an at large at the strenghth of conference wins alone? Is a 3-0 record against UNLV enough to vault SDSU past other bubble teams and into the field.
I say no to both. I feel the Aztecs need to win tonight or they wont make it. No SugarCoat. Just Epinion.
Big East Championship: Syracuse vs. Louisville. Line, L'Ville -7
Another fascinating season in the Big East comes to a close tonight under the lights of Madison Square Garden. And, we have two great storylines.
Lousiville has been the most impressive and have shown flashes of Final Four promise. No more was that evident in the routing of Villanova last night in the second half. Card Chronicle, uh, chronicled the assualt.
Then, there's Syracuse, whose played the about a dozen games this weekend. After battling from behind for six overtimes before beating UConn, the Orange needed another extra session last night to outlast West Virginia. Troy Nunes cries Uncle on the overtimes, but must have pulled his own OT session providing a one-stop shop reviewing last night and looking ahead to tonight.
I cant add anything else that either SB Nation Blog blog already has said. I love watching the talent on both of these teams and really hope the Orange have enough left in the tank to give us another show tonight.
Predictions, sure to go wrong
Thanks for nothing, SEC. Two teams that have been my best friends the last 3-4 weeks, cost me dearly today. Sweeping the board in the Big 10 and ACC games gave me an energy drink boost. But, foolishly stepping in front of the Memphis Freight Train. I still have to ML parlay going thanks to Binghamton's win earlier today. If Alabama State can finish it off in the SWAC this evening, remarkably I will come out pretty clean.
So, I got that going for me. Let's try and turn some profit with these:
**** USC +2 over ASU Tim Floyd is one of the best underdog coaches out there. Devils have the best player in Hardin, but the I'd take the Trojans roster because its better stocked. They'll have the home court behind them tonight. They grab an auto bid and shrink the bubble.
**** Duquense +4.5 over Temple I had a hunch about the Dukes all weekend, but have been too reluctant to play them. I hope I am not too late to the party.
**** Baylor +6 over Missouri If you can beat Kansas and Texas in back-to-back days you can hang with a Missouri team has been on the down tick for the better pasrt of the last month.
**** Syracuse +7 over Louisville Somehow, someway, the Orange will have the legs to hang in there. I'm one of those guys who always expects Syracuse to win, so when I see them catching points I have a hard time laying off. Louisville has not had huge fan support this weekend, but MSG will be packed with Syracuse fans. I give them a 50/50 shot to win straight up.
***** Utah pick 'em over San Diego State With all that bad mouthing of the Aztecs, you know I'm taking the Utes.
Earlier I said I would make a call on each small school and mid-major title game. I lost track of a couple of these the last few days on account of all the other action. But, with five going tonight, lets get that Magic Coin out again
MAC Title: Buffalo +3 over Akron The magical college season of the Buffs continue. I wrote Tuesday the Bulls would win this sectional. Mouth, meet money.
MEAC Title: Norfolk State +10 over Morgan State Hey, its the MEAC. Its time to learn a little bit about Delaware State's conference. Some bizarre bubble implications here, I suppose, when the fact the Maryland's resume is plagued with a bad loss to Morgan State. I'll take a stab with the big dog. Hey, its March.
SWAC Championship: Alabama State -3.5 over Jackson State I already have Bammer State, just to win straight up, on that parlay the Binghamton win activated. If ASU finishes this, it pays 8/5. I'm not adding anything else into the pot on this one.
WAC Championship: Utah State -1 over Nevada I admit it has not looked good for USU this weekend. But, they're here, and proved all season the best team in this league. I'll take them in a coin flip, regardless of venue, against anyone in this conference.
Big West Championship: Cal State Northridge -1 over Pacific Same as above. CSN gets revenge after losing a rather meaningless game to Pacific last week.
Dionte Christmas is lighting up it up. Six firsy half threes, 20 points. His production spearheaded a 10-2 that reversed the outcome of the first half.
Temple up 42-37 at half. Both teams shooting well, but Christmas has been way too much. Dukes a bit more balanced and bit more deep, we'll see if that plays out in their favor in the second half.
Hey, who's got Christmas?!?!
ASU dominates the last 7 minutes of the half.
Hardin, quiet most of the half, puncuates ASU's run with consecutive treys. Up huge, 39-24 at the half.
Bubble looks like its dogdging a bullet.
In the Big 12, its still anybody's ball game, but the favored Tigers are up 37-33 over budding bid thief Baylor.
Something to look for the rest of the way: Missou has been dominant in the second half this weekend in Oklahoma City. Can the tired legs up Baylor withstand that?
Weird - these three games (Temple-Duquesne, Mizzou-Baylor, ASU-USC) are all mirror images of each other.